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Techniques: Taking Measurements

We've all experienced a badly fitted garment. It doesn't matter if we bought it off-the-rack or we made it; it simply doesn't fit right. It's too tight, it's too loose, the bust pulls, the armhole gapes, the waist is too high, the crotch too low...

Some simple preparation can help alleviate that problem. It's isn't hard and doesn't take very long, it is however, emotionally miserable for a lot of us. I mean seriously, how many women want to grab a tape measure and write down (in a nice hidden notepad) all those... those... numbers! 

Get a good friend to do this with and after, you can have that hot fudge sundae - together...

High Bust
Place the measuring tape high under the arm – and higher then your top bra band. The major pattern companies use this measurement.

Full Bust
Measure around the fullest part of the bust – inline with your bra band in back. A lot of independent and European pattern companies use this measurement.

Cross Chest
Put your arms down tight to your sides. Do you see the crease line where your arm and side meet? This is at about the exact same point as the high bust measurement. Measure from one crease to the other across your chest. Do not go around your body.

Cross Back
Same as the cross chest, except in back. Time to call a friend for help.

Natural Waist
Measure comfortably around your natural waist – then do the same thing while sitting to be sure that it’s a comfortable fit. Check the measurement numbers - are they the same? If not, adjust the standing one to the sitting one. If you can’t breathe, you aren’t going to wear the garment!

Shoulder Width
Find where your arm and shoulder join. (Just move your arm a bit to find that spot). Measure from the shoulder joint to your natural neckline.

Bust Point
Two measurements are needed here:

  1. From the middle of your shoulder to the nipple.
  2. From nipple to nipple. 

You’ll be able to determine with these measurements if you have a high bust (I did, about 30 years ago – now I swear I need a crane), or something else. Most American pattern companies think we’re all 22 and perky!

Back Waist Length
Measure from the back of the neck (like where a necklace would rest) to your natural waist.  Make sure you mark to the base/bottom of your waist – not higher.

High Hip
This is taken about 3 inches below your waist and is considered the hateful tummy measurement. You know that spot that pants and skirt pull tight on us. Ugh.

Full Hip
This means that fullest part of your hips: from hip to upper thighs. It’s not a set amount of inches below your waist – we’re all different. After you’ve got those numbers, check to see how far down it is, and note that too.

Upper Arm
Surprisingly enough, we take this with our elbow bent at about a 45 degree angle; plumps that old arm up some.  Again, take around the fullest part of the arm.

Lower Arm
Measure at the fullest point between elbow and wrist.

Well duh. Loosely around your wrist.

Sleeve Length Full
Another measurement with the arm/elbow bent – almost a full V-shape. Measure from the shoulder joint, around the elbow, to the wrist.

Waist to Floor
Take on each side of the body to determine if you have a high or low hip. Put on a belt to mark your waist and have friend help. Measure from the belt/waist all the way to the floor – bottom of the foot time. Compare both sides to see if you have adjustments to make.

Crotch Length Full
Leave on that belt, wrap the tape measure from the front of your body, under, and up the back to your waist.

Another full one to deal with. You sit to take this measurement to make sure the thigh is spread (whimper) fully. Measure around the thigh at the crotch point. Vow never to eat another mouthful of ice cream as long as you live.

Sit down, bend our knee , wrap the tape measure around the bent knee.

Pants Length
Measure from the waist – on the side seam area – to either the anklebone or floor depending on how long you wear your pants. Bare feet please, as most of us wear more than one pair of shoes. It’s also a good idea to take a measurement from your knee to your ankle and floor.  When lengthening/shortening this is where you’ll be handling it.

Skirt Length
Pick your poison, from waist to: above the knee, under the knee, mid-calf, low-calf, above the ankle, floor-length.

Jacket Length
Here we measure from the center back neck (remember where your necklace fell), to the high-hip and slightly about the crotch.

Dress Length
Again, center back neck – and just as long as you want it to be!

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